Tenured professor loses job after wearing a hijab in solidarity

Professor loses job after wearing hijab

Madison Rexroat

As with most Facebook conflicts these days, it all started with a comment by Donald Trump. After hearing Trump’s 2015 comments about banning Muslims from America, Larycia Hawkins, the first black woman to receive tenure at Wheaton College, decided she didn’t agree

Despite being a devoted Christian and teaching at a historically strict evangelical school, Hawkins announced in an 11 paragraph Facebook post that she would wear a hijab throughout the Advent in solidarity with Muslims.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins said in the December post.

Soon after she published the post, Wheaton alumni, donors and parents of students and prospective students expressed deep concerns. For those who wanted their children to receive the Christian education promised by Wheaton, Hawkins’ post was seen as a threat to that promise.

Five days after the post, Hawkins was placed on paid administrative leave. To remain at the school, Hawkins had to write an extensive theological explanation to the provost. But even then, he recommended to the board that Hawkins should be fired.

After an exhausting process of waiting to find out her fate, Hawkins and the school reached a confidential agreement in which Hawkins decided to leave the school.

“I use the example of being pulled over,” said Shawn Okpebholo, a professor at Wheaton. “You keep getting challenged over and over to explain yourself and then forced to explain yourself more. You say, ‘No, I can’t do this anymore.’ What they may see as insubordination is something we in the black community think is about integrity.” 

Since the controversy, Hawkins has accepted awards from various religious organizations and has even traveled to Turkey with a Chicago-based Islamic non-profit to meet Syrian refugees. Hawkins is now participating in a research fellowship at the University of Virginia.

To read the full article in the New York Times, click here